Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mahler - Symphonie-Orchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Rafael Kubelik ‎– Symphony #5

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

This week’s Tuesday Blog, an edition of our ongoing series Vinyl’s Revenge, features Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. This, in s way, serves as a teaser for mire Mahler symphonies coming our way this Fall.

In past blog posts, I have made references to my favourite Mahler symphony cycles on record, and undoubtedly point to the excellent set recorded for DG by Rafael Kubelik and his Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the 1960’s and 70’s. In my vinyl collection, I own the first, second, fourth and today’s featured fifth – and own the entire set in my digital collection.

It would be somewhat presumptuous of me to dare provide a big hand, small map look at Mahler’s symphonies – a few years ago, there were posts by a fellow TC’er who provided very insightful comments on all of his symphonies. Suffice it to say that Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 and 7, which all belong to this period, have much in common and are markedly different from the first four, which all have strong links to vocal music – and in particular to Des Knaben Wunderhorn; his later symphonies are much more ambitious, very Brucknerian in their scope.

What is also important to remember is that the fifth was the first major work Mahler composed after his marriage, and that his wife Alma provided some technical support, sometimes doing the full orchestration of significant passages with only sparse indications on her hurband’s manuscripts – at least, this is what she claimed in her memoirs.

Structurally, the work is in five movements, though Mahler liked to think of it in three parts, with the scherzo (third movement) sandwiched between two parts (formed by the first two and final two movements, respectfully). The fourth movement Adagietto may be Mahler's most famous composition and is the most frequently performed of his works; It is said to represent Mahler's love song to his wife Alma. Leonard Bernstein conducted it during the funeral Mass for Robert F. Kennedy at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Manhattan, on 8 June 1968, and it was used in the 1971 Luchino Visconti film Death in Venice.

The reviews I have read of this performance are mixed, but I’d like to point out that Kubelik’s Mahler set shouldn’t be judged solely on the individual performances standing alone, but rather in the context of the entire cycle. I find that Kubelik’s approach is sincere and the play of the orchestra – and of the trumpet soloist in particular – is superb. I remain quite partial to this rendition – I hope you will agree!
Happuy Listening!

Gustav MAHLE (1860-1911)
Symphony no. 5 in C-Sharp Minor (1901-02)
Symphonie-Orchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Rafael Kubelik, conducting
Deutsche Grammophon ‎– 2543 535
Format: Vinyl, LP
Released: 1983 (Original recording, 1971)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Threatre of the Mind

No. 282 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.


This week's Blog and Podcast revisits a topic I discussed and illustrated on a Tuesday Blog back in October of 2012. Here are the musings I used at that time, adapted for this week's montage.

The music selections I chose to explore today are, in a sense, speculative works – that is to say, works written (one could think) in anticipation of a stage work. All of the pieces I chose are intended either to depict stage music, or suggest stage music, whilst not necessarily designed to accompany any specific stage work – other, maybe, than the type of stage performance, be it a theatrical play, a ballet or an opera.

Let’s start with the opera selection. Canadian composer Alexina Louie is both fairly prolific and has shown throughout her work a keen sense of imagination. The work she composed as a commission for the French contemporary Ensemble Court-Circuit is a work that provides both the flow and texture of opera with the Far-Eastern flair that betrays Ms. Louie’s ancestry. An escellent description of the piece is provided by Ms Louie as notes to her score at the Canadian Music Centre.

Ballet seems to be a popular subject for “imagined” stage music. I chose works by England’s Samuel Coledridge-Taylor and Canada’s André Mathieu that could very well have been used to accompany both traditional and contemporary dance choreographies.

In the theatrical genre, a pair of works by two composers who produced their fair share of stage music. Canada’s Healey Willan contributed to well over 40 stage works of all kinds (The Beggar's Opera, Brébeuf Deirdre, many stage works for Hart House Theatre, etc.). His Overture for an Unwritten Comedy was written for a CBC 1940’s radio talent competition Opportunity Knocks.

Aaron Copland also made his fair share of stage and film music contributions: The Tender Land, stage and film version s of plays by John Steinbeck and others. His Music of the Theatre and the Piano Concerto (1926) were both composed for and given their first performance by legendary Boston Symphony conductor, Serge Koussevitzky.

I think you will love this music too!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Scherchen/Haydn - Four More London Symphonies

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

Almost a year ago, I shared a series of Joseph Haydn's London symphonies from a 1950s MONO collection, under the baton of Hermann Scherchen.

Scherchen was musically self-taught. Early in his career, he played viola, and for a time he accompanied Arnold Schoenberg on tour. Interned in Russia during the First World War, he returned to Berlin after the war and founded in 1918 the Neue Musikgesellschaft ("Society for New Music"). In 1933, he fled Germany for Belgium, where he was publisher of Musica viva (1933-36), and conducted in Spain, France and elsewhere in Europe during and after the Second World War; he made his American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1964.

Scherchen collaborated with avant-garde composers by presenting their works on record and in concert. He recorded with orchestras of Vienna, London and Paris and devoted special attention to the works of Baroque and classical masters in addition to contemporary voices.

You will find the complete collection of the twelve London symphonies as well as some other selections from Scherchen's near-complete Haydn cycle on the Italian website LiberMusica.

Happy Listening!

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Symphony No. 93 in D Major, Hob.I:93

Symphony No. 99 in E-Flat Major, Hob.I:99

Symphony No. 100 in G Major, Hob.I:100 « Military » (*)

Symphony No. 101 in D Major, Hob.I:101 «The Clock »

Wiener Staatsopernorchester
Wiener Symphoniker (*)
Hermann Scherchen, conducting

Internet Archivehttps://archive.org/details/haydn_sinf_93_sh_02_largo_c_etc

Friday, June 1, 2018

Alban Berg (1885-1935)

No. 281 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.


After a series of Russian podcasts, the next few planned montages will explore “modern times”, 0 in anticipation of later chapters of Project 366. This week’s share features one of the prominent voices of the Second Viennese School, Austria’ Alban Berg.

As in most Viennese middle-class homes, music was regularly played in his parents’ house, in keeping with the general musical atmosphere of the day. Encouraged by his father and older brother, Alban Berg began to compose music without benefit of formal instruction. During this period his output consisted of more than 100 songs and piano duets, most of which remain unpublished.
In September 1904 he met Arnold Schoenberg, who was quick to recognize Berg’s talent and accepted the young man as a nonpaying pupil. The musical precepts and the human example provided by Schoenberg shaped Berg’s artistic personality as they worked together for the next six years.

Berg wrote atonal and 12-tone compositions that remained true to late 19th-century Romanticism. In the circle of Schoenberg’s students, Berg presented his first public performance in the fall of 1907: Piano Sonata (published 1908). This was followed by Four Songs (1909) and String Quartet (1910), each strongly influenced by the young composer’s musical gods, Gustav Mahler and Richard Wagner.

Our opening work, "Der Wein" (The Wine), is a concert aria for soprano and orchestra, composed in 1929. The lyrics are from Stefan George's translation of three poems from Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal. The aria was dedicated to Ružena Herlinger, its commissioner and first performed in Königsberg on June 4, 1930 with Hermann Scherchen.

Berg wrote two operas: Wozzeck (1925) and Lulu . The inspiration for Berg’s Lulu can be found in two plays by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind (1864–1918). From Erdgeist (1895; “Earth Spirit”) and Büchse der Pandora (1904; “Pandora’s Box”), he extracted the central figure for his opera. This work engaged him, with minor interruptions, for the span of 1929-34. By then, the rise of Nazism and Berg’s close association to Schoenberg meant his work was proscribed and placed on the list of degenerate music. It was at this point that he set aside the work on the opera to prepare a concert suite, in case the opera could never be performed, and also considered expanding it into a Lulu Symphony. The suite is featured in today’s montage.

Berg’s last complete work, the Violin Concerto, originated under unusual circumstances. In 1935 the American violinist Louis Krasner commissioned Berg to compose a violin concerto for him. As usual, Berg procrastinated at first. But after the death of Manon, the beautiful 18-year-old daughter of Alma Mahler (by then the wife of the architect Walter Gropius), Berg was moved to compose the work as a kind of requiem and to dedicate it to the “memory of an angel”—Manon.

By the time the work was finally presented by Krasner in Barcelona in April 1936, it had become a requiem not only for Manon Gropius but for Berg as well. One of the major violin concerti of the 20th century, it is a work of highly personal, emotional content achieved through the use of 12-tone and other resources—symbolic as well as musical.

I think you will love this music too.